Posted in: Game Reviews by Michael Durr on September 29th, 2008
The Dark Knight movie did big business this year and most people were quite surprised there was no official video game for the movie. Anybody who was looking for a Batman fix after the movie either paid $8 to see the movie again or tried to re-enact scenes with their best friends in their basement. However, there was a little relief to be had. The wonderful teams behind Lego Star Wars and Lego Indiana Jones decided to go to market with a Lego Batman game. But instead of focusing on the recent movies such as Batman Begins & The Dark Knight they moved their focus to the past. Their inspiration seemed to come from the first 2 Batman films with Michael Keaton and a strong dash of the awesome animated series that ran during the same time period. Would Lego’s humor and strong gameplay succeed or would the jokes go as sour as any thought of Robin in a future Batman movie (especially one with Christian Bale)?
If you’ve seen either of the previous Lego-themed games, you kinda know what to expect. Little block pieces in bright and vibrant colors come together to form your favorite Batman hero or villain. The graphics despite the expected kid’s appeal hit very close to home. Everybody on the roster (outside of a few generics) looks good and move in well across the screen. Seeing Joker fight along side Batman or Robin is a hoot (in Free Play mode) to watch. Special attacks like Batarangs or Mr Freeze’s Ice Gun also look equally pleasing. The buildings and basic Lego Build-it’s also look fantastic and fun. Too bad you have to destroy most of them (but at least you will have a blast doing it).
My first real complaint here is how hard it is sometimes to figure out where a particular platform begins so you can jump on it. The worst offender here is the Batman Glider suit which entails you to fly long distances to land in the middle of the platform. Repeated practice is the only thing that helps here. The second complaint has to do with brightness. Sometimes after breaking a giant series of blocks, you will be introduced to a crack in the wall where you need to continue. Except you won’t find that crack, for twenty minutes (See Villain episode 1, section 1) and then there it will be right in front of you. But only once you turn up the brightness by about 100%.
Most of us as a child played with Legos. Do you remember that sound of when you dumped out all of your legos so you could play with them or if somebody accidentally broke the structure you spent 14 hours on that you were so proud of? (Thanks dad!) Expect to hear that sound, a lot in 5.1 English Dolby Digital. The most positive thing about the sound is that they do use the Danny Elfman theme music we have come so accustomed to hearing. Problem is that you hear the same theme a lot. Don’t expect the full musical score or anything. The beeps and squeaks also become insanely repetitive and most of the sound stays centered in the main channels. But overall it does sound good, it establishes the batman theme as the background and then adds the usual dose of Lego to make a pleasing audio experience.
The storyline of Lego Batman is divided into three sub-plots. Each episode is divided into 5 parts. Playing from the hero’s perspective you take on the role of Batman & Robin as you try to foil the villain’s plans. What are those plans you ask? The first episode you are trying to foil Riddler & his plan to heist a bank. Subsequent episodes have Penguin trying to seize control of the city by using robot penguins and Joker is trying to blow up a cathedral and release laughing gas all over the city. After the first hero episode is completed in full, the first villain episode is opened up. These take on the alternate view of the action where you play as the bad guys, mostly in an attempt to subdue the local authorities and get the vital items to stage their devious plot.
For those who never played a Lego game, the action is actually quite simple. You have a button to jump, a button to punch or fight (or for the bad guys to shoot), a button to grab or special attack (like the Joker’s hand buzzer) and that’s about it. The game’s fighting is small in nature because the real core about Lego Batman or any Lego game is in the puzzles. Breaking up blocks will often reveal legos that can be used to build a variety of items. Sometimes it is a very simple item like an archway for an armored vehicle to pass through. More elaborate structures can take on a giant dollar sign or Lego Robot. All of these tasks advance the plot line to get to the next area or boss in some cases.
The other puzzles usually can be divided into two sub classes, platformer exercises and how to use a particular suit or character. Platformer exercises are commonly those tasks that one must do like jumping or hitting the right block combination to advance to the next area. Most of these are easy in scope with a few requiring more difficult thought. The particular suit option starts out easy enough with the stage usually giving the right suit at the right time. For example, a large gap might require Batman to use the glider suit and glide across to the other side.
However, where this becomes hard is in the Freeplay mode. In Freeplay mode, you have access to all characters & suits that become unlocked. Many of these characters or suits have different abilities. Your goal in Freeplay mode is not to beat the area, your goal is to collect everything in that area. The true difficulty as well as the fun comes from discovering a unique use of the ability to uncover secret items and areas for more and more studs (the currency of Lego Batman). Lego Batman isn’t really that hard of a game to get through the episodes, its real challenge lies in completing the game or reaching 100%. Finding every piece of the mini-kit can be quite the challenge in heart and determination.
The one thing that sets Lego games apart is how fun it is to replay levels over and over again. The first time you go through a level is almost never the last. In order to get the tasty 100% completion, you must go through the task of getting all of the mini-kits, red bricks and a super hero(or villain) high score. Then using your money or studs, purchase extra characters and all of the other miscellaneous tidbits found in the access panel of either the hero or villain’s hideout. However, as fun as this sounds; the real fun is that this can be done by yourself or with a friend of your choosing.
The co-op mode is an exercise in working together as a unit and moving towards that common goal. My original purchase of this game was for my girlfriend. She is an excellent gamer and this was an easy choice for those long hours when she wasn’t playing World of Warcraft. She played it solid for a day before I stepped in and started to play it for myself so I could review the title. We’ve been playing it together for the most part for almost a week now. We have slightly over 25% of the game complete and are still having an absolute ball.
There are plenty of achievements in this game. Forty-six actually for a grand total of 1000 gamerpoints. The achievements are quite varied from the super-easy like smashing all of the street lights in Episode 1, Chapter 1 to medium range achievements like There and Back where you must destroy 10 objects in one Batarang throw. Then there are hard achievements like 100% completion or maxing out your studs (which is 4 billion by the way, good luck). The thing I like perhaps the most is that there are achievements that use the Free-play mode where anything can happen. Free-play a level with both characters being Joker. Shock each other and get an achievement, it’s hilarious and fun. In my eyes, the achievements here are nearly flawless and do nothing but help the experience.
Many times when people review games they forget something. This is something that I very well could have forgotten myself but found in the hands of my girlfriend, the love of my life. A game can be a technical marvel piece and have blazing sound that shatter your sub and make the neighbors consider calling in the national guard. However, it is nothing if the game isn’t fun. Fun to play by yourself, fun to play with others. Lego Batman is that in spades. The plethora of characters is astounding and one of those titles where playing the role of evil is more entertaining than playing the role of good. However, good isn’t bad either. There are some short comings such as sound and lack of Live multiplayer experience but they are very minor towards the whole experience. Families who love super heroes will love this game. There are tones here that are darker than the cheery fare of past Lego titles but nothing I would consider not appropriate for our youth. So grab your batcape (from awesome-capes.com) and a friend (perhaps a boy wonder) and scour the streets to protect the fair citizens of Gotham from the escapees at Arkham Asylum. Or perhaps you just want to show those citizens who truly are running the mad house. Recommended.
(*Please note that a giant thank you goes to Sarah Swimmer, my girlfriend. She helped with this review and without her input, this game probably would have not been purchased and reviewed. Thank you sweetie, I love you.*)
List of Characters that you can play
(most of these will be locked in the beginning)
Commissioner James Gordon
Ra’s al Ghul
The Mad Hatter
Poison Ivy’s Goon
Other Coverage & Reviews
- 1up.com: “A great Lego game should make you unabashedly giggle like a little kid, while a great Batman game should make you feel like a badass, criminal-bashing creature of the night. Already at odds with itself due to its dual identities, Lego Batman only does half the job for both of those tasks”
- TotalVideoGames.com: “I can complain a bit, though. Yes, the superb graphics feel like New York City on garbage day, so dirty you can almost smell the rot — but you really don’t need to buy this as a next-generation console game.”
- Gameinformer.com: “The charm of LEGO blocks is exploring your creativity and building new things, so Traveler’s Tales’ habit of sticking to one formula stands in stark contrast to the entire LEGO philosophy”